Genesis 2:4–19, Isaiah 2:11–22, Proverbs 3:1–18
“…Ashes to Ashes; Dust to Dust…”—Book of Common Prayer, Burial Liturgy
The Circle of Life was (and remains) a powerful song. Just the title itself reminds us that life is a circle. Adam (i.e., mankind) came from dust. That dirt swept off the floor or vacuumed out of the carpet is just a large amount of dust. We look around our homes and can see dust on books, or tables, or bookshelves, or other places. Dust. If being compared to dust thrown in the trash can bothers you, you can think of yourself being made from stardust (like Carl Sagan wrote/spoke, and musician Moby sang). It may not be much better. It’s still dust. It is (and should be) humbling that we are of dust.
Lent revolves a lot around repentance. The greatest enemy of repentance is pride. Understanding that we are but dust and ashes helps us keep ourselves in the proper perspective. Hopefully, it helps us put aside our sinful pride. As Isaiah warns, God is not pleased with those who think too much of themselves. Humanity’s ongoing struggle is the warring of its own pride, both as a species and as individuals. The litany of items (cedars, oaks, mountains towers, walls, ships) were all things that people bragged and took pride in. Certainly, mankind had everything to do with the cedars, oaks, and mountains (that was sarcasm). People take pride in things that are not their own, and will often use that same pride against others. Everything will come crashing down around pride-filled humanity, and they will be reduced to dwelling in caves and holes. The passage in Isaiah ends with humankind only having the breath in his nostrils…the breath that God put there (Genesis 2:7).
God’s breath in us…we who are made of dust. “Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not rely on your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). We often trust the dust and not the breath. We trust the filth and not the life that we have been given. In our pride, we rely on our own and others’ dust. When we trust God, and not our worldly knowledge and “wisdom,” we relinquish our pride. When we accept that we do not and can not understand it all, God is the only reliable answer. Once we arrive at that destination, true repentance can occur. With our repentance, we open ourselves to be formed and re-formed by the one through whom all things were made…Jesus Christ.
One of the traditions of Lent is to give something up. It is not a rule or must do, it is a tradition. It is a good spiritual practice.
1) If you have decided to give something up, what is it? Why that? How will it draw you closer to God?
2) If you haven’t decided to do this practice, why not? Again, not that it is a requirement